tonight on "nightline," states of emergency. the latest developments on that historic hurricane, more than 500 miles long, bearing down on the eastern united states with 65 million people in the crosshairs. ststm surge. predictions of water levels of 15 feet and devastating winds cause officials to order mandatory evacuations in major cities, including new york. we'll check in with our reporters in towns up and down the hurricane zone.
and guy in the eye. here's what's coming. he put himself in the middle of irene already. >> 75, 80-mile-an-hour wind gusts. oh! >> tonight he takes us inside. a special edition of "nightline," "hurricane irene," starts right now. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," august 26th, 2011. good evening, i'm terry moran. welcome to a special west coast edition of our show. the eastern u.s. tonight is in a state of emergency because of this massive storm, hurricane irene. it is a powerhouse. just take a look. driving waves to heights of 30 feet near its center and creating tropical storm-level winds being felt over an area 600 miles wide. here's the latest updated map. the very latest of irene's expected path.
as you can see, the storm is still on course for a direct hit on the carolina coast, new york city, and boston. abc's matt gutman joins me live now from nags head, north carolina. matt, the storm is coming ashore there on the outer banks. what are you seeing and feeling? >> reporter: terry, with each passing hour the storm is intensifying here. just over the past couple of hours a tornado spawned within the hurricane out at sea. you can basically just see a a g patch of white. you can't even see the atlantic. that's how roiled up the ocece is. 30-foot waves out there. it's'setting worse and worse by the hour here. and we haven't even seen the worst of it yet. now, it's gotten so bad that dare county officials here in the outer banks are telling people no longer to evacuate. now is the time, they say, to seek shelter. irene's winds are howling out here, and most people are now listening to the alarm bells. from ocean city, maryland to the w jersey shore there was a
steady stream of evacuees fleeing coastal areas. tempers were short as cars lined up at gas stations. here in the outer banks nearly 200,000 people have fled, drilling a last few boards in before heading to higher ground, leaving behind a ghost town. it's pretty eerie driving down this road. absolutely e ety houses boarded up when just two days ago this place was packed with summer vacationers. in these driveways there were five, six cars just lined right up. others heading into the storm. professional storm chaser and meteorologist reed timer took us in his stormproof car affectionately called the dominator. reed, how serious of a storm is this? >> this storm is really, really serious. and what makes it unique is its track. in my 13, 14 years of storm chasing i've only seen a handful of hurricanes that will make a turn this far west and go straight north into new england. >> reporter: he intends to drive his beast into the belly of the
storm over the next few hours. >> i think we're going to encounter some increasingly strong winds. it's going to start off gusting to tropical storm force like it is right now. and it will gradually pick up. it will come in waves as those spiral bands rotate around the hurricane. and then when the eyewall comes ashore, that's that donut hole, basically the strongest winds right around the eye of the hurricane, once that hits this area, that's where you could get the gusts probably over 100 miles per hour. >> reporter: it's a storm that rocketed waves across 1,000 miles of the atlantic, knocking eight people in south florida off a city pier. dozens had to be plucked out of the water i ithe carolinas. and over 430 miles to the north, new york city is bracing for the biggest storm since 1938. irene is expected to be a category 1 hurricane when it slams into the city. mayor bloomberg is shutting down all 840 miles of subway track underneath the city. canceling buses. he's even issued a mandatory evacuation for over a quarter of a million people living in the
low-lying areas of the city. >> we wouldn't be doing it now if we didn't think this storm had the potential to be very serious. >> reporter: hospitals and nursing homes across the area were also given the order to start the evacuation process. meanwhile, across the hudson, governor chris christie had a very specific group of people he wanted to make sure heard the alarms. >> get the hell off the beach in asbury park and get out. you're done. it's 4:30. you've maximized your tan. get off the beach. get in your cars and get out of those areas. >> reporter: and as the casinos in atlantic city start closing their doors, the question on everyone's mind is just how bad will this storm be? farther north, places like rhode island and boston may face the strongest wind and highest water surge because they'll be on the storm's northeastern quadrant, the so-called dirty side, where all the wind and rain it gets. and people looking to get out of the area completely?
as the hours tick by, the escape window is quickly closing. all flights into new york canceled as of noon tomorrow. airlines have already cancnced over 6,000 flights over the next three e ys. and while amtrak will still be running on saturday, its services will be reduced and on sunday, don't expect to catch any trains in the northeast corridor as service will be shut down completely. a situation so dire that president obama left martha's vineyard and is back at the white house. >> if you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. don't wait. don't delay. >> reporter: for "nightline," matt gutman, north carolina. >> thanks to matt gutman on the outer banks. and now for people here in the east who live in irene's path, the danger of being in that hururcane zone actually varies, depending on which side of the zone they're on. here's abc's weather editor sam champion to explain that. >> it really does matter which
side of the storm you get caught on. and here's why. if you take that hurricane and split it in half, the right side is normally what we call the dirty side of this storm. to get the real wind speed in here, you have to take the measurement of the movement of the storm and add it to the wind speed because of the way that storm is turning and then in this particular case it's moving north. so w wtever direction that storm is moving, you cut it in half, and the right side of it has actually got faster winds than the left side just because of the math of it all. now, further making that side worse and even the front of it worse is if you put another line in it and make it -- kind of split it into a quadrant. than that northeastern quadrant is worse with the wind and the water there in particular because as it moves onshore that's the side with the spin that hits land first, and no matter which direction it's moving it's that northeastern side that will spin t tt first area of rain in. it will spin that first line of heavy storm surge in. and it will spin that line of first big waves in. so it's that northeastern side there that gives you the storm
surge, the wind, the heaviest rain. it's why we call it the dirty side. and if you find yourself in that part of the storm, you're getting the worst effects of that hurricane. >> and there are a lot of people in the way there. thanks to sam for that. visit our website at abcnews.com/nightline for important information on this storm. tips for what your loved ones in this area should do. just ahead we're going to check in with abc reporters up and down the east coast. we'll meet the man with an eye for this storm. a fearless hurricane hound. have i got a surprise for you! a mouthwatering combination of ingredients... i know you're gonna love. [ barks ] yes, it's new beneful healthy fiesta. made with wholesome grains, real chicken, even accents of tomato and avocado. yeah! come on! [ barking ] gotta love the protein for muscles-- whoo-hoo! and omega-rich nutrition for that shiny coat. ever think healthy could taste so good?
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special hurricane irene coverage. now we want to go out in the field to find out what abc reporters up and down the east coast are seeing. we begin in north carolina with john camp. >> reporter: i'm john camp in pine knoll shores, north carolina where we expect irene will make landfall tomorrow morning. the eye of the storm potentially passing right over us sometime between 8:00 and 10:00. tonight, the wind, waves and rain picking up, of course, but not a lot of folks here to see it. a mandatory evacuation went into effect at 6:00 a.m. and most folks took that seriously. >> reporter: i'm jim sciutto in ocean city, maryland. normally on a friday in the summer, this would be packed with people and cars. but tonight -- nothing. a mandatory evacuation herere a they're worried about two things. the storm surge, up to six feet, almost as tall as me, and time. the storm expected to sit over here for 13 hours from saturday night into sunday. heavy winds, heavy rains. that storm surge. they say it simply won't be safe here. >> reporter: i'm kenneth murton in atlantic city, new jersey.
and i ine is expected to hit here tomorrow night. this is the famous atlantic city boardwalk. and tonight it is just about empty. the governor has ordered the evacuation of four coastal counties, which could impact 750,000 people. casinos like trump plaza here have started to board up and close down one by one. >> reporter: i'm marcy gonzalez in q qens, new york. and we're expected to start feeling the effects of this storm tomorrow night into sunday. and for the first time in new york city history, mandatory evacuations are under way in several areas. tonight, the mayor opening more than 90 shelters like this for those with nowhere else to go. >> reporter: i'm david kerley in martha's vineyard, where for the past 36 hours visitors have been cutting short their vacations to get off the island before the hurricane hits. most flights have been canceled. the only way out? ferries. they've added a lot of boats to get everybody off the island in time. >> thanks to david and the abc reporters on the coast therer while some of us wait for the
storm out here, others have already seen it. and no one has seen it like the man we're about to introduce you to, who collects footage of hurricanes the way some people collect seashells. here's abc's linsey davis. >> reporter: here's what hurricane irene looked like when it hit the bahamas. >> as you can see behind me, hurricane conditions have arrived. >> reporter: the man who took these incredible pictures? extreme weather photographer mike theiss. this is theiss on the balcony of his hotel in the bahamas. a safe bet he's one of the few people on the continent right now trying to get closer to irene. >> this wind and rain combined is absolutely ferocious to stand outside in front of. >> reporter: but this is how he makes his living. when mother nature acts up -- he's there to take her picture. what are your observations of irene so far? >> i'm really, really concerned with the outer banks. that, to me, is where the worst part is going to happen. i've seen this before, but i think thth one might be the real
deal. >> reporter: you don't have to take his word for it. just look at his pictures and you know theiss knows the real deal when he sees it. during hurricane charley in 2004, mike parked himself outside this gas station in charlotte harbor, florida, and documented some of the strongest winds ever caught on video. winds up to 155 miles per hour. how do you stay safe? >> i don't just go to an area and just wing it. i have to kind of understand the area and what's going on. >> reporter: documenting gas stations as they disintegrate might seem crazy to the rest of us. but for mike it's always been his dream. ever since he was 7. >> i used to sit out, actually, with my father was one memory, and we would wait for the lightning storms to come in. just everything as a kid, all these memories, and they kind of all got me hooked. >> reporter: in 2005 he was there to meet wilma when she landed in his hometown of homestead, florida. here he's documenting that eerie
moment when everything goes quiet. the eye of the storm. >> it's amazing. because you go through the eyewall and things are just getting trashed. and then all of a sudden you get in the eye, it's calm, the sun comes out. it's just a different feeling. it's very odd. >> reporter: in the early days he shot this video of tourists walking directly against the wind. and for those of you who think this looks like fun, do notot t it at home. as mike points out, people have died doing this. and then of course there was katrina. >> the most devastating was katrina. i've had nightmares about it. >> storm surge. >> reporter: he was right there in gulfport, mississippi on august 29th, 2005. katrina's ground zero. >> these walls are going to start coming in. >> are you taping this? >> yes. >> reporter: he witnessed firsthand the historic 28-foot storm surge from his hotel room
at the beachfront holiday inn. >> here we are. it's crazy. >> reporter: while everyone else is evacuating, theiss seeks out the belly of the beast. as furniture floats around like pool toys. a car comes crashing through the lobby. water follows them up to the second floor. >> currently on the second floor. the surge is already coming up the staircase here. >> reporter: during katrina, mike also debuted h h patent pending theiss device. it's a camera but built more like a thank. >> bulletproof glass on the front. it's got a gps tracker built into it. >> reporter: as waves of water demolished the hotel, the theiss device kept rolling. the video is just one of mike's many contributions to the most photographed subject in the world, mother nature. and theiss's lens revels in her majesty and reveals the monstrosity. but for the tens of millions on
the east coast bracing for irene tonight, photographs like these would be much more awe-inspiring in a picture book, instead of their backyard. for "nightline," i'm linsey davis in the bahamas. woman: hit it, mr. butters. ♪ ♪ take on me... ♪ ....take on me ♪ take me on... anncr: there's an easier way to save. get online. go to geico.com get a quote. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. uh oh. i gotta go. [ female announcer ] and with charmin ultra soft, you can get that same cushiony feeling
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hurricane irene is one of those things that's so big it's hard to take the measure of. but you can measure what's happening around it, from the number of people evacuating to the number of national guard troops standing by to help, 101,000 of them. here's abc's john donvan with hurricane irene by the numbers. >> reporter: 8:45. the hour this morning at which one 15-seater van and one suv loaded up with a group of
campers from a group called focus, one of them, only 13 months old, cutting short by one day their martha's vineyard stay. >> i pray that you would bless this trip home, and i pray that we would make it home today. hopefully that there won't be too much traffic and that you would keep everyone safe in this storm. >> reporter: to drive home to washington, d.c., 475 miles in the hope of getting there before this. irene. whose own numbers are these. 100. speed and miles per hour of the wind it has generated. 14. speed and miles per hour at which it's traveling north toward new york city. 510, size in miles of irene from one end to the other. 5 to 10. number of inches of rain irene is dropping at any point along the way. now some people numbers. 65 million. the number of people reported to be located in the hurricane's path. 250,000. number of people in new york
city ordered to evacuate their homes. number of times that any mayor of new york has previously ordered such an evacuation -- >> please, nature is a force more powerful than any of us and it really is better to be safe than sorry. >> reporter: that would be zero. it is a first. number of new york city subway stations ordered closed with the system shutdown bloomberg has ordered? 468. date of the last time new york subway system shut down completely? september 11th, 2001. number of amtrak trains that will be running in the northeast on sunday? zero. number of upcoming commercial flights pre-emptively canceled while it was still dry and sunny on most of the east coast today, around 6,000. which was just for starters. the likelihood that it will be sunny and dry tomorrow on the major north-south interstate highways? about zero. which is why it's good that our van full ofpe